All posts by CSJ Administrator

Part 23 – December 2016


Mary Rowell CSJ on behalf of the Ecology Committee

The season of Winter calls us to quiet waiting on life hidden in the dark earth. The liturgical season of Advent similarly invites stillness as we await the re- birth of Christ in our hearts and world; Christ ever-present and yet to come.

The Biblical Tradition echoes the patterns of Earth. Wendell Berry says the Tradition “elevates just stopping above physiological necessity, makes it a requirement, an observance of the greatest dignity and mystery”. It is called, Sabbath. Sabbath is an essential part of the evolutionary and spiritual process. It is a time set aside to honour creation according to the very patterns of creation. We humans must make a choice. Berry asks, “Will we choose to participate by working in accordance with the world’s originating principles, in recognition of its inherent goodness and its maker’s approval of it, in gratitude for our membership in it, or will we participate by destroying it in accordance with our always tottering, never-resting self-justifications and selfish desires?”

These are strong words and yet what a beautiful reflection for living winter and for entering fully into the season of Advent this year.  Earth and Tradition call us into a time of rest and reflection – a time of joy. In his beautiful book, “Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight”, Norman Wirzba says, “Just as God’s Shabbat completes the creation of the Universe – by demonstrating that the proper response to the gifts of life is celebration and delight – so too should our Sabbaths be the culmination of habits and days that express gratitude for a joy in the manifold blessings of God.”

Without a sense and practice of Sabbath how easy it is to forget the gifts of God and to enter into restless, joyless and destructive patterns of being. The personal, social and ecological costs of forgetting Sabbath, Norman Wizba maintains are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. They include stressful living to the point of breaking, a loss of meaningful relationship, a lack of peace, the destruction of Earth and its accompanying rise in human poverty and suffering.

So we are invited to reclaim a sense and practice of Sabbath. Winter and Advent, our waiting times, provide the best opportunities by calling us to rest in the rhythms of life. We are gently challenged to remember who we are and who we are called to be. Like plants that will yield fruit in the Spring only if they lie dormant in Winter we are invited to a fallow season. Wayne Muller writes of this most beautifully; “We must have a period in which we lie fallow and restore our souls. In Sabbath time we remember to celebrate what is beautiful and sacred; we light candles, sing songs, tell stories, eat, nap, love. It is a time to let our work, our lands, our animals lie fallow, to be nourished and refreshed. Within this sanctuary, we become available to the insights and blessings of deep mindfulness that arise only in stillness and time. When we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating what the Buddhists call right understanding, right action and right effort.” May this Winter, this Advent be for us such a contemplative time; a time for God, a time for Earth, a time for one another, a time for gratitude that when Christmas comes we can once again birth Christ in the World in peace and joy. Earth teach us the way!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Prepared by Ann Marshall CSJ on behalf of the Federation Ecology Committee

Spring is a siren call for all creation to a renewed relationship with Mother Earth to bring forth new and abundant life.  The die-hard gardeners among us are at the starting gate even before spring officially arrives.  These nurturers of the soil and spirit tell us that gardening is gratifying, and simple tasks like pruning and weeding can relieve stress, improve mood, fill one with hope, and help develop emotional wellbeing.   There is a sense of purpose and achievement in cultivating a garden, it is a vehicle for connecting with others, and spiritually it provides occasions to spend time outside communing with nature and breathing in the great outdoors.

Food for Thought is highlighting some Federation gardeners.  The following is a “taste” to tempt you to our Federation website very soon, and we gather many more pictures from our wonderful gardeners.  We’ll let you know when the website is updated.

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An enthusiastic Sister Gwen Smith (Toronto) and volunteers at the community garden growing food for nutritious meals for the Mustard Seed Community.


My interest in gardening and growing up in the Netherlands certainly gave me that passion.  I enjoy beautifying and caring for the earth and its flowers, plants, veggies, trees etc. to watch them grow produce, bloom and be used for others enjoyment.  Lydia Smeets CSJ


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Sister Jane Fischer, Pembroke, can hardly wait for the snow to be off the ground before she begins making plans for her precious plants – flowers and vegetables. Jane’s floral window boxes are primarily for the sisters who can’t walkout doors any more, but appreciate watching them grow and thrive in the summer. Her tomato plants are thriving in Pembroke sunshine.

Part 22 – September 2016

A Window on Hope – Priscilla Solomon, CSJ on behalf of the Ecology Committee


The Green Window symbolizes the opportunity to look beyond our present situation and see the horizon, perhaps to imagine a new horizon. Today we need horizons of hope and sustainability. I needn’t describe the present reality of excessive carbon consumption and climate change. Nor do we need a description of the desperate situation that many Indigenous Peoples in this land face. The need for reconciliation emotionally, spiritually, politically, socially and economically is very evident. So also is the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and at least 94 ways or actions to accomplish this, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


There are instances of hope – of new horizons. On Sept 22, Thessalon First Nation welcomes the public to tour their Bio Centre. This is how it is described in the media advisory.  “Thessalon First Nation acquired the tree surgery in 2000, which was previously owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Today, the Bio Centre has the capacity to produce elite plants and trees using cutting edge technologies and can house several agricultural ventures simultaneously. Some modern equipment and facilities include, a 6000 square foot refrigeration building, 17 climate controlled greenhouses, 100 acres of arable fields, access to organically certified facilities, and an on-site biological lab….”   The tour was offered to Thessalon FN members, potential partners, investors, funders and vendors. When I spoke to Nadine Roach she said the “Thessalon First Nation” is already working with such groups as “Sustainable Forest License Holders,” “Corridors for Life” and the “50 Million Tree program.”


The Centre provides economic resources to the community, including employment. It also provides Thessalon FN a way to be a leader in sustainable development, thus meeting their traditional value of care for the land and all its inhabitants. They work with organizations that also have the desire to protect the earth, the water and the plant and animal life it sustains.


Another example is the Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (BZA) First Nation who are developing two run-of-river hydro projects on the Namewaminikan River in partnership with AXOR Group and two other Lake Nipigon First Nation communities (The AXOR Group specializes in the generation of renewable energy and green energy in Canada and across the world). The reserve is also involved in commercial fishing, forest harvesting and the construction business. Ray Nobis, a community spokesperson says the community of about 340 on-reserve band members has its own forest licence permit and has “laid out a partnership with Taranis [Contracting Group] for our construction.” Nobis also relates how they harvest lumber every year and have a strong silviculture program in place to nurture new trees for planting and sustainability.


These inspirational projects are but two of numerous First Nations initiatives for creating new hope, new horizons and a better future. Traditional wisdom bringing healing for our Mother Earth and her peoples.


Useful Websites:  biinjitiwaabik-zaaging-anishinaabek/

Part 21:  April 2016

Why Green Our Faith:  Guiding Spiritual Principles For Integral Ecology

In this time of grave ecological crisis, a global cry is rising up shouting, “What must we do to protect and cherish the integrity of the planet?”  Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, is offering one way forward by challenging us to envision integral ecology which holds social justice and ecological justice together as one. This is at the heart of the encyclical’s message.   How will the human family live into integral ecology. It is critical that faith communities actively participate in the dialogue. What is needed are sound guiding principles that will allow us to see more clearly how our Christian faith and integral ecology are interconnected. The emerging field of ecological ethics is striving to do this. Continue reading

Food Trends 


Nancy Wales CSJ

Have you heard about Generation YUM?   They are a large subset of Millennials or Generation Y. Those who were born between the early 80’s and the early 2000’s. In a recent interview on the AGENDA, host Steve Paikin spoke with author, Eve Turow Paul, a free-lance food, travel and culture writer. Her new e-book, “A Taste of Generation YUM” has just been released. The author admitted that it was her own curiosity which prompted her research into the reasons behind the changing relationships of Millennials with food. In her search for answers, she interviewed many of her peers and numerous food leaders. Her findings supported her initial observations that significant numbers of Generation Y are truly obsessed with all things food. ‘Foodies’ par excellence, she labeled Generation Y also as Generation YUM.  Continue reading

Our Golden Jubilee has begun!


Our Golden Jubilee has begun!

Fifty years ago the Vatican II document on the Renewal of Religious Life invited independent religious communities who belonged in some sense to the same religious family to work toward making a federation of themselves. Our history tells us that “following the January 18, 1966 consultation with the six local ordinaries concerned, the General Superiors informed Pope Paul VI of their intentions and asked a blessing on their endeavours. On September 20, 1966 approval was received through an indult and the Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada came into existence”.

And so we mark this Jubilee year with prayer and ritual, joy and delight!

Spirit of Collaboration

That decision was the beginning of fifty years of collaboration among the six congregations and hundreds of members. Such collaboration was evident in the research and production of historical documentation, in the shared efforts to deepen our spirituality as Sisters of St. Joseph, the renewal of vowed life, and the exploration of mission together. That same spirit continues today as we strive together for care of the earth, issues of systemic justice, and global relationships. Our members have themselves evolved a pattern of meeting annually to enrich their understanding of being Sojourners in Active and Inclusive Love. Many of our Associates/Companions enrich one another with their varied experiences of formation and mission. Our Vocation Committee members offer insightful ways to engage persons in discerning their life’s call. Collaboration is also evident in the upward surge resonating throughout our congregations to assist refugees, and persons being trafficked. We give thanks for the unfolding of our charism in these collaborative ways!

Over this half century we have experienced waves of collaboration with the US Federation including a joint effort to support a Haitian school destroyed by the 2010 earthquake, Event ’90 held in Toronto, participation in various gatherings, workshops and retreats, and a shared Novitiate. We continue to host representatives from the US at our annual Federation Board meetings and likewise attend theirs. And we rejoice with them as they too celebrate their golden anniversary, this year.

This collaboration extends globally as our Federation Office for Systemic Justice works closely with our CSJ representative to the United Nations. Such energy includes liaising with members of the global CSJ family working for justice and systemic change.  Our members have participated in the founding of the International Centre, its development of a strategic plan, the creation of an extraordinary interactive archives, and numerous international workshops that have strengthened the ties of the global Joseph family. Indeed our expression of inclusive love reaches afar.

Spirit of Celebration

Recognizing that a major anniversary gathering in one location would be somewhat of a challenge, our Anniversary Committee is preparing a prayer service to mark that September date. Our Archivists have organized an Anniversary display board for each of our three congregations. As well they have prepared a display for the Ontario Legislative Building.

As our six foundresses: Mother Maura (Toronto), Mother Alacoque (Hamilton), Mother Julia (London), Mother St. Rose (Peterborough), Mother St. Thomas (Pembroke) and Mother St. Edward (Sault Ste. Marie) informed Pope Paul VI  of their intention and asked for a blessing on their endeavours, we too imitate their example and are requesting a Jubilee Apostolic Blessing for our Federation members.

In keeping with our profound desire to care for our planet, so actively invigorated by our Ecology Committee, we have made a donation to plant trees in the Guelph Old Growth Forest. These trees will actively promote earth’s sustainability and will also stand as legacy of our Federation into the future.

Personal Gratitude

While your Board has set these activities into place, how shall each of us, individually mark this year of Jubilee? It is striking that our anniversary takes place during the same time frame as the Year of Mercy. Reflecting on the biblical understanding of Jubilee, the themes indeed coincide. The ideal expressed in the biblical rendering is that God is the land owner, land should be shared equally, and monopoly of land in the hands of the few doesn’t fit into God’s plan.  In this Year of Mercy, so many of the world’s peoples are displaced from their land, while at the same time many of the world’s communities are trying hard to find ways to share the security of homeland. We certainly can sing out in thanksgiving to God for the many ways each of our congregations have been able to welcome the newcomer.

As individual members of this strongly rooted Federation, perhaps another way of looking at land security is to look at heart security. What brings us peace of mind and a wholesome approach to life? Does our charism of unity and reconciliation hold out hope for others whom we meet along life’s path? Is our heart wide enough to embrace the gifts others bring to us and to celebrate with joy what they too offer?

Although many of our members do not have opportunity to frequently engage with one another, during this year of Jubilee might we make an effort to re-connect with Sisters and Associates/ Companions we have met along the way, at summer school, or retreats, or having worked together on committees both within the Federation and within other organizations across Canada through diocese, or hospital, or educational structures? Renewing associations or friendship can happen with great satisfaction through Skype, email and phone calls. Perhaps one effort of mercy this year of Jubilee is to reach out to one member of the Federation whom you haven’t seen in a while. All such efforts strengthen the bond that was first woven in 1966. Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor calls us to let that unconditional love, made visible in Jesus, radiate through each of us. Such love will indeed enflame the torch to continue the collaboration begun in 1966.

With the sound of the trumpet let the Jubilee begin!

Sr. Loretta Manzara, Sr. Ann Delaney, Sr. Alice Greer, Sr. Nancy Sullivan, Margaret Magee

January 12, 2016